We've had two one-run games, a dramatic ninth-inning rally, the greatest single-game offensive performance in World Series history and one of the best pitched games of the past 20 years. Are we headed for a classic World Series? The next three games will reveal the historic context of this showdown. Until then, some quick thoughts on Game 5:
Mark Simon and Doug Kern of ESPN Stats & Information take a look at what's worked and what hasn't worked for C.J. Wilson and Chris Carpenter this postseason. Wilson didn't have much success with his cut fastball in Game 1, and considering Derek Holland's success with his breaking pitches in Game 4, ESPN Insider argues that Wilson should throw more offspeed pitches. Jim Bowden writes that this is Wilson's chance at postseason redemption and presents his keys to Game 5.
Wilson is chasing the bad kind of history: He's gone seven-straight postseason starts without a victory and is trying to avoid joining five other guys who have gone eight in a row without a win. Wilson's record over those seven starts isn't good: 0-5 (the Rangers won once), 6.18 ERA, with 22 walks and 10 home runs allowed over 39.1 innings. Just for fun, a look at the other five guys.
Al Leiter (11): Amazingly, Leiter made 11 postseason starts in his career and didn't win a single one (he did win twice in relief). His stretch began with the Marlins in 1997 and included the 1999 and 2000 postseasons with the Mets. He didn't pitch that poorly, posting a 4.36 ERA that included his awful start in Game 6 of the 1999 NLCS, when he failed to retire a batter. He pitched six innings in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series for the Marlins, allowing two runs in a game Florida won in extra innings. In four starts in 2000, he went at least seven innings each turn and posted a 2.93 ERA. Overall, some rough starts mixed in with some bad luck.
Dwight Gooden (9): Doc never won a postseason game in his career (nine starts, three relief appearances). His starts were great in the 1986 NLCS, but he lost 1-0 to Mike Scott and pitched 10 innings in a no-decision against Nolan Ryan in Game 5. His career postseason ERA was 3.97.
Gary Nolan (9): A member of the 1970s Big Red Machine club, Nolan won his first and last postseason starts, but was winless in-between. He had a 4.12 ERA in those nine starts, but Sparky Anderson often had a quick hook and he had seven no-decisions.
Randy Johnson (8): Johnson ended up 7-9 with a 3.50 ERA in his postseason career, but he famously lost seven-straight decisions at one point. Over those eight winless starts, he had a 3.84 ERA, but his team scored one run or zero five times.
Charles Nagy (8): Pitching in the high-powered mid- to late-'90s, with Cleveland, Nagy was 0-2 with a 5.14 ERA over his eight-game stretch.
Asked about Josh Hamilton before the game, Ron Washington said, "We know Josh is dealing with some ailments, but any minute, in any inning and any game, nobody knows, Josh may step up and get it done. But he's in a good enviroment because we're not totally depending on Josh."
Tony La Russa will start Skip Schumaker in center field for the slumping Jon Jay, who is 1 for his last 26 in the postseason. Schumaker isn't the greatest option against Wilson, since he's a career .210 hitter against left-handers (.250 this season in limited action). "If you know Jay, he's starting to pull his hair out because he's just not right at the plate," La Russa said. "I'm going to give Schu a shot because Schu is a really good player and can play the outfield and come in with a fresh stroke, and then we'll see about Game 6. But it's more just Jay is just not himself."
Rafael Furcal continues to hit leadoff, but he hasn't done much with the bat this postseason: He's hitting .185/.232/.338 and .125 in the World Series. "I just see over-effort," La Russa said. "There isn't anybody playing in the World Series that wants to win this thing more than he does." It's a lot more comfortable pitching to Albert Pujols with nobody on base. If the Cardinals are to pull this out, they'll likely need more production from Furcal.